Bob Dylan said “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night, and in between does what he wants to do”. Well I don’t want to disagree with Bob but if a man has a mortgage to pay, he also needs to get paid for it.

Many HR professionals choose to become self-employed so that they can have the freedom and autonomy of doing the work they want to do for the people they want to work with. 

Doing what you love doing and getting paid for it relies on 2 things – you have to have a passion for what you do and you have to have a passion for turning it into a business. So to make a success of becoming self-employed, you need a fusion of what you have the talent to do, what you really want to do, and what people will pay for.

1.        Passion for what you do

As an HR professional you are likely to be passionate about people and the role they play in making businesses and organisations successful.

Like most HR professionals you will have invested significant time and effort in your own professional development both on the job and through external training, reading, research etc.

Everything you need to be successfully self-employed is in your head. The skills, the experience, the talent are already there and these are what people will pay you money for. Your greatest potential for growth is through identifying and utilising your greatest strengths. It’s all a question of turning your skills and experience into a service or product which people need to apply to themselves and their organisations and will therefore pay good money for. And that takes passion!

You need to really, genuinely, enjoy what you do to get up and running whether you are an HR Director looking to change your lifestyle, a working mother who wants to work from home instead of facing the daily commute or a development specialist who has been made redundant and decided you’ve had enough of corporate life.

You need a passion that can stimulate self-motivation and give you a reason to get up in the morning and go to work – even if it is (temporarily) done at the kitchen table.

Most self-employed people I know – the ones, incidentally, who are the most successful – are doing what they do because they love it. The money is nice too, but secondary –you need the basics to be in place but most people I know who are self employed are doing it because it affords them the right kind of lifestyle (which is more important to them than monetary reward).

 2.       Passion for turning it into a business

My whole independent career has been about having a passion for turning what I do into a business.

If you are going to be successful at being self-employed your passion for what you do has to be complemented with a strong desire to own your own business, and a conviction that, with a modicum of research and some luck you can prove to yourself it’s viable.

The people who aren’t so successful are the ones who don’t have a passion for turning it into a business. I know – or should I say knew – too many people who came to self-employment on the back of a big pay-out package from their former employer. They had a passion for doing something different so decided to go it alone but would really have been better finding the opportunity to do what they wanted to do while working for someone else because they didn’t really have a passion for the business side of things.   One lady I knew decided to leave the HR consultancy she was working for because she thought she could get higher rates working for herself. She was a talented occupational psychologist and good at what she did but she never really got into the right frame of mind to be self employed. She was good with existing clients but didn’t like the idea of selling or networking and wasn’t good at writing or administration. And, more importantly, she didn’t want to pay out for help. She expected work to arrive in her lap. It doesn’t. It’s hard work getting work, especially if you want to charge high rates. In the end, after a miserable 12 months or so, she got herself a job working for someone else which allowed her to do what she enjoyed doing while someone else worried about building the business.

It doesn’t matter if your plan is to work one, two, three or even seven days a week. As long as you make sure that the days you’ve decided to work are focussed on building the business as well as doing the work that’s fine. At any one time, you need to carry out or manage activities focussed on  marketing, meeting with prospects, writing proposals, “doing the real work”, billing, collecting revenue, keeping your office organised and ensuring your products/services are smoothly delivered.

Few of us have equal interest and ability in all these areas but there are a number of options. Depending on the nature of your business, what you want out of it and where your skills lie you can find other resources to help you with the activities you don’t want or are unable to do. But if you’re going to go down that route you need to have the self awareness to know what help you need, the network to help you and the willingness to invest the time and effort in learning or paying for skills and expertise.